Building a home for beneficial bugs
In our gardens one can tend to think that all bugs are bad but in truth the vast majority are beneficial while only a few greedy ones give the rest a bad name. Beneficial insects help our gardens in three main ways – they are predators, pollinators and parasitiods.
The more diversity of bug life in the garden the better chance the bugs have of reaching a balance where predatory insects and garden munching buggers coexist and none can rise to the level of destructive pest.
You can encourage a healthy population of beneficial bugs in your garden by creating habitat that offers food and shelter for your new bug partners. A creative way to encourage a healthy insect population is to build a structure for protection from the elements as well as space to feed, mate, lay eggs and pupate.
Beetle banks, tunnel nests, bug hotels call them what you will they all help provide habitat for insects. They can be large or small, elaborately designed or quite simple.
Here are some of the basic requirements:
Shelter from rain can be accomplished with a layer of natural material or a proper roof made of tiles or pieces of wood.
Interior space can be made up of pieces of wood with holes drilled into them, bundles of twigs, layers of grasses, bricks or whatever natural material you may forage in your garden.
Most bugs prefer a sunny location. A south or east facing location is best for morning light.
Placement depends on the type of insect you hope to attract. Some like many predatory wasps prefer to nest above surrounding vegetation while others like certain spiders prefer a location close to the ground. It is a good excuse to have more than one insect habitat.
The best insect habitat can be a simple brush pile made up of larger branches interspersed with small twigs and loose material like leaves or grasses. It may sound messy but can be quite a beautiful addition to a garden when built with care.
A brush pile creates shelter for ground dwelling arthropods and nighttime predatory incects that need shelter from the sun such as lacewings.
Beneficial insects to purchase:
Ladybugs (only from a reputable source and never gathered from the wild)
Praying mantis eggs
Parasitoid wasp pupae
The bad guys
Box elder Leptocoris trivittatus and L. rubrolineatus
Mealy bug Pseudococcus, Planococcusand Ehrhornia species.
The good guys
Big eyed bug
Minute pirate bug
Long legged flies
Daddy long legs